Bishop bocce ball beginners and experts now have a place to practice.
The Bishop Bocce Association and city Parks and Recreation officials recently completed construction of Bishop’s first bocce course at the City Park.
The $1,000 project began last year with fundraising efforts by the Bishop Bocce Club, and culminated Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and Mayor Jeff Griffiths throwing the first official ball.
“I came up with the idea about a year ago when we were playing in the parking lot a Millpond,” said Bishop Bocce Association President Alexander “Skandar” Reid. “I brought it up to (Bishop Parks and Recreation Director) Keith Caldwell, and I didn’t know he was such a go-getter.”
With an endorsement from Caldwell and Parks and Recreation staff, Reid and the Bocce Club began fundraising efforts, receiving $300 each from the Bishop Rotary clubs, $249 in donations during the Millpond Music Festival, where the club set up a make-shift course and gave free lessons, and various other donations.
Once enough money was raised, Parks and Recreation staff built the bocce lane on the south side of the park near the tennis courts, which will give bocce players light for night-time playing in the summer.
Bocce Ball, or lawn bowling, takes place on a 100-foot long lane with two teams or individuals.
A match is started by a randomly chosen side being given the opportunity to throw a smaller ball, the jack, down the lane. The object is for each team, in turn, to try to get their ball closest to the jack.
The team with the closest ball to the jack is the only team that can score points in any frame. The scoring team receives one point for each of their balls that is closer to the jack than the closest ball of the other team.
Players also have the opportunity to knock their opponent’s ball away from the jack, to better their odds of scoring, or, to knock the jack away from opponent’s balls.
“It’s a great sport,” Reid said. “It’s something that a grandfather can play with his grandson, and have an equally good time.”
The Bishop Bocce Club will be offering free lessons this weekend from 10 a.m.-noon for any resident who wants to learn how to play.
But local recreation is not the only reason Reid wanted to see a bocce court built in Bishop.
“People play bocce all around the world,” he said. “If there are Italians coming through, doing the Death Valley, Bishop, Yosemite car tour, and they hear there’s a bocce course, they might stop just to try our course. It’s like golf, where players like to get out and try other courses just so they can say they played Pebble Beach.”
Reid also said that, once bocce season kicks off in the spring, the Bishop Bocce Club will have the opportunity to travel to different cities, and invite other teams to Bishop for matches.
“Bocce is one way to get tourists out of their cars and into enjoying Bishop,” Reid said.
Before the Bishop Bocce Club can begin hosting tournaments with other teams, however, at least one more course must be constructed.
Reid said the current course is a good start, and he hopes to see newcomers showing some interest in learning the sport.
The Bishop Bocce Club is now beginning its second round of fundraising, and hopes to generate another $1,000 for the construction of the second course.
Reid also said the City of Bishop has plans to have benches and barbecues, as well as a couple horseshoe pits, built near the new bocce course.
To join, or for more information about the Bishop Bocce Club, call Reid at (760) 8723-7211 or visit the club’s Facebook page.